When it comes to improving home energy efficiency, homeowners tend to think of the big changes that drive energy savings. Things like upgrading to energy-efficient windows, replacing old doors and adding attic insulation.
But even people with relatively new, well-insulated homes can lower their energy bills by thinking small. Here are some relatively small steps that, collectively, can help add up to significant energy savings.
How We Use Energy in Our Homes
Heating accounts for the biggest portion of your utility bills.
Source: U.S. Energy Administration
Energy Saving Ideas
Get an Energy Audit — Audits are usually offered free by utility companies and give you concrete ideas for improving your unique home’s efficiency. Some utilities even offer discounts and rebates if you take the recommended efficiency-enhancing steps.
Maintain Your Heating Systems — Investing in annual furnace and air conditioning checkups can help keep them running efficiently. Remember to change the furnace/AC air filter as recommended.
Let the Sun Shine In —On cool days, open your curtains for south-facing windows during the day to let the sun naturally heat your home. Just be sure to close the curtains after sundown. Likewise, sunlight is free so turn off the lights, open the drapes and enjoy natural lighting.
Get a Programmable Thermostat — Thermostats have evolved from changing heating and cooling at various times in the day to “smart thermostats” that are connected by wireless internet to computers and smartphones. Among the benefits is giving you the ability to control your house’s comfort setting even when you’re far from home.
Crank Down the Heat at Night —Many people enjoy burrowing under the blankets on cooler nights. Programming your thermostat to drop 10 to 15 degrees during eight sleeping hours a day can save 10% on your utility bill.1
Seal Around “Plumbing Penetrations” and Other Gaps — Plumbing penetrations are the points where pipes come into your home. Those, along with gaps around recessed lights, behind light switch and power outlet covers, and more can add up to dozens of air leaks.
Reduce Heat Loss from Fireplaces — Ironically, fireplaces can be significant energy heat losers. Increase efficiency getting your chimney professionally cleaned annually if you use it a lot. Be sure the flue is tightly closed when not in use. If you never use the fireplace, consult a pro about sealing the flue.
Lower Your Hot Water Costs — Heating water accounts for 18% of the energy consumed in an average home and is the second-biggest energy consumer besides space heating.6
- Turn down water heater temperature setting to 120 degrees. Experiment with how low you can set it and still have comfortable showers.
- Change your shower head to a WaterSense labeled model. The EPA estimates you can save more than $70 in water and energy costs each year.3
- Wash only full loads of clothing, and use the cold-water setting.
- Wash only full dishwasher loads.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer at optimum settings — The US Food and Drug Administration recommends maintaining the refrigerator at or below 40° F (4° C) and the freezer at 0° F (-18° C).4
Transition to CFL and LED lights — ENERGY STAR®-qualified use up to 90% less energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than traditional incandescents. You can save as much as $80 lifetime for each ENERGY-STAR-qualified light bulb.2
Kill the Energy Vampires -- Many electronic devices and appliances — such as DVD players, TVs, stereos, game consoles, desktop computer monitors and printers, and some kitchen appliances — go into standby mode and continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These vampire loads occur in many appliances that use electricity and can add up in wasted electricity cost.
Unplugging anything that isn’t in use is a good habit to get into, with some obvious exceptions. Be sure and unplug cellphone and other chargers when not in use, or connecting several devices to a power strip and turning the power strip off can kill some of the energy vampires.
For things that need to remain plugged in for automatic updates or to avoid the long hassle of rebooting (such as cable or satellite boxes, computer modems and wireless routers), get a Smart Power Strip that lets you shut off power to things like your stereo and DVD player while keeping the power flowing to the things that shouldn’t be unplugged, all in the same power strip.
Make your home more energy-efficient
These are small changes. They don't impact your home's design or style. But there are other ways to up your energy efficiency and improve the aesthetic of your home at the same time. When you add it all up, you'll have reduced your energy costs and your impact on the environment.